Illinois Basketball: In-state recruiting evaluation of Brad Underwood

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Illinois basketball

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – MARCH 18: Head coach Brad Underwood of the Illinois Fighting Illini reacts against the Chattanooga Mocs during the second half in the first round game of the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at PPG PAINTS Arena on March 18, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

For much of the past 50 years, Illinois basketball has had a hotbed of talent right in our backyard.

It doesn’t matter what part of the state the talent is coming from, the Illini have always had recruits just hours away who could play basketball at the highest levels.

With that being said, I wanted to take a look at the job Brad Underwood has done with in-state recruiting since taking over the program. Snagging the top talent from the state of Illinois was something that had eluded the prior two coaches, so bringing back the tradition of keeping the best players home was going to be a tough task.

Here is an evaluation of how well Illinois basketball head coach Brad Underwood has recruited the state of Illinois.


There were many obstacles that were in Underwood’s way when he entered the Illinois basketball program. I would argue winning, or lack thereof, was the biggest of the obstacles.

Underwood entered the picture as Illinois was coming off the fourth season in a row where we weren’t going dancing. The Illini had missed the NCAA tournament four straight years. A recruiting pitch to anyone, let alone in-state recruits, is tough when you can’t prove you can win on the court.

Another obstacle Underwood was facing was the lack of prior recruiting ability the Illinois basketball program had with in-state high schools.

The previous coaching regime did not recruit the state of Illinois well. During this five-year run – class of 2013 through 2017 – there were 21 top 100 recruits from the state of Illinois. We were only able to land four of those recruits.

Out of those four top 100 recruits from the state of Illinois, only Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn really panned out. The other two recruits were DJ Williams and Mark Smith, both of whom transferred out of the program and didn’t do much outside of Champaign.

These obstacles are real. Underwood took over the Illinois basketball program with a lot of work to do with in-state recruiting.

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